Victim-Offender Dialogue Program
- provide in-depth assessment and preparation for crime victims and offenders in order to determine whether a VOD will effectively meet the needs of all parties;
- having as a highest priority the safety and comfort of our clients;
- maintaining VOD as a voluntary process which precludes any and all pressure for victims or offenders to participate;
- providing quality and ongoing training and evaluation to volunteer facilitators in order to ensure quality service delivery; and
- empowering participants of the process to determine their own solutions for addressing the harm resulting from the criminal behavior.
Victim-Offender Dialogues are a voluntary, confidential process in which highly trained community volunteers organize and facilitate face-to-face meetings between victims of crime and their offenders. The Victim-Offender Dialogue Program is provided through a partnership between Clackamas County Juvenile Department and Resolution Services.
When a VOD is requested, and it is determined to be appropriate and safe, both parties (victim and offender) will have the opportunity to participate in a facilitated dialogue in order explore what happened, discuss the impacts, and determine how to meaningfully address the harm resulting from the youth’s actions. Click here for an in-depth program description.
Through VOD, crime victims have the opportunity to ask any questions that are unanswered, share the impact that the youth’s actions have had on them, and discuss what they need in order to move forward in processing the experience.
Crime victims often have questions which only their offender can answer. VOD provides a unique opportunity for this questioning to take place in a safe, controlled environment. During these meetings, crime victims are encouraged to express, directly to their offender, how the crime affected them. VOD also provides crime victims the opportunity to play an active role in exploring what needs to be done in order to address the harm done to them.
Unique to Clackamas County’s Victim-Offender Dialogue Program, referrals to the program are often victim-initiated. Through our Victim Impact Program, which proactively reaches out to crime victims of juvenile offenses, we are able to provide VOD as an early option for responding to the crime victim’s needs. All requests for a dialogue are assessed by VOD staff to determine if the case is appropriate and safe for all involved parties. The preparation and time frame for dialogues varies for each case and is dependent upon everyone’s readiness to meet. Either the crime victim or offender can stop the process at any time if either party does not wish to continue.
If young people who commit crimes are going to be able to understand and be accountable for the harm they have done through a criminal offense, they need to be presented with the human impact of their actions. Learning from their offense, growing in empathy for those they impact, becoming safe, responsible citizens – all of these healthy, pro-social outcomes are intrinsically connected to these youth being presented with the real human impact of their actions.
Through VOD, youth are given the opportunity to be responsible to those they harmed, hear directly from them the impact their actions had, and to play a role in determining what they can do in order to meaningfully address their crime victim’s needs. The process allows offenders to be responsible for their actions and often results in unique and realistic parameters for being accountable, such as work for victims or community service work.
Juvenile Justice System
VOD relieves the court system of the burden of establishing restitution amounts. Referrals to VOD often result in quicker disposition of cases. VOD offers the Clackamas County Juvenile Department an opportunity to involve victims and address their needs in a meaningful way. Members of the community are offered the opportunity to solve some of their own problems in a creative way. Research has shown that resolution and restitution are more successful than some other alternatives.
- Police report is given to the Victim Services Coordinator and Juvenile Court Counselor.
- Victim Services Coordinator provides support services to the crime victim(s) through the Victim Impact Program.
- Juvenile Court Counselor reviews the case.
- If a dialogue is requested:
- Case is reviewed by the Victim-Offender Dialogue Program
- Initial meeting is held with the victim(s)
- Initial Meeting is held with the offender(s)
- If it is determined to be appropriate and safe, and both parties agree to move forward, a VOD session occurs
- If agreements are made, they are written and signed by all parties
- Questionnaires are provided to all participants
- The Juvenile Court Counselor supervises the youth in fulfilling any agreements made through VOD
After each VOD all parties including observers are asked to fill out questionnaires. The intent is to get feedback as to how the process went for everyone. Constructive criticism is encouraged. Hundreds of people have filled out the questionnaires. The responses have been overwhelmingly favorable. The following is a sampling of some comments provided on questionnaires.
"I worked everything out and I feel better and safer." - Victim
"I liked the openness of everyone... also the chance to discuss what happened." - Offender
"I feel better telling both of the victims the truth, and it will help me not to do any bad things later...” - Offender
"I was told at the time of the incident not to contact (the victim). I wish now that I would have used my own judgment as he is a fair individual and not at all like I was told that he would be like." - Parent
"I came with a why not - I'll try anything - I thought that good could come of it - I think it did." - Victim
What those of us who are involved are discovering is that positive results go far beyond restitution agreements. People often change their opinions about each other. Fear and suspicion is replaced by acknowledgment of each other and recognition of each others' feelings. Offenders are meeting their crime victims face-to-face and are being responsible for their actions. There is a relief but also pride that they have done this on their own without a parent or lawyer speaking for them. Crime victims are invited into the justice system and have an opportunity to tell their story directly to the offender and have the harm done through the youth’s actions meaningfully addressed. Parents see their children face responsibility. Volunteers have the opportunity to make their community a safer place.
For more information about the Victim-Offender Dialogue Program, please Contact Us, and ask for the Restorative Justice Coordinator.